The UN Security Council overcame deep divisions to unanimously approve a statement on Thursday condemning Syria’s shelling of a Turkish town that killed five women and children “in the strongest terms.”
Council members managed to bridge differences between the strong statement demanded by the United States and its Western supporters and backed by their NATO ally Turkey, and a weaker text pushed by Russia, Syria’s most important ally, after negotiations that began late Wednesday and continued through Thursday.
In the press statement, which needed approval from all 15 council members, the UN’s most powerful body said the incident “highlighted the grave impact the crisis in Syria has on the security of its neighbours and on regional peace and stability.”
It also extended condolences to the families of the victims and to the government and people of Turkey.
The council demanded an immediate end to such violations of international law and called on the Syrian government “to fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbours.” Russia’s agreement that the Syrian shelling violated international law was a key concession by Moscow.
The original Western-backed draft, proposed by Azerbaijan, condemned the shelling “in the strongest terms” and called it a violation of international law. Proposed Russian amendments never mentioned any breaches of international law, so the inclusion in the final text was a concession by Moscow.
Earlier on Thursday, Syria’s UN envoy said his government is not seeking any escalation of violence with Turkey and wants to maintain good neighbourly relations.
Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari said the government hasn’t apologised for the shelling from Syria because it is waiting for the outcome of an investigation on the source of the firing.
It urged Turkey and its other neighbours to “act wisely, rationally and responsibly” and to prevent cross-border infiltration of “terrorists and insurgents” and the smuggling of arms.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm on Thursday at the escalating border tensions and warned that the risks of regional conflict and the threat to international peace is increasing, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said.
The UN chief called on all parties “to abandon the use of violence, exercise maximum restraint and exert all efforts to move toward a political solution,” he said.
Mr. Nesirky said Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League envoy, has been in contact with Turkish and Syrian officials “in order to encourage an easing of tensions.”